Waymo Ready For Self-Driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids In San Francisco

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It still needs permission from the government, however.

Waymo, the autonomous taxi business of Alphabet Inc (the parent company of Google), has applied for a full autonomy approval permit in San Francisco, California.

Company sources confirmed the news to Reuters. Once approved by city officials, Waymo will be able to offer fully paid autonomous rides in modified vehicles, such as the Jaguar I-Pace, to the public in San Francisco. The company's application was submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission last week. However, final approval could take months.

General Motors' autonomous driving subsidiary, Cruise, already received its permit last June to charge for driverless rides in the city. GM aims to expand to additional cities in 2023. But why are these companies anxious to make San Francisco their initial test bed city?

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Because of its many hills, heavy traffic, and overall weather conditions, including rain and fog. The bottom line is that it's an ideal proving ground for new technology. A Waymo software engineer has confirmed that the company upgraded the software that controls braking and acceleration, which will help better navigate the vehicles through the city's many twists and turns.

Waymo's fleet of Jaguars have been carting around San Francisco passengers as "rider-only" since March, but every car had a human backup driver onboard. Back in 2017, Waymo introduced its fully autonomous van, a modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid-based platform. These vans currently operate in Chandler, Mesa, and Tempe, Arizona.

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The critical difference between Waymo, Cruise, and Tesla's self-driving technology is the formers' use of LiDAR cameras instead of AI learning. This is a more complex way to achieve Level 5 autonomy. Still, it's proving to work, unlike the complications and controversy surrounding Tesla's Full Self-Driving, which is really just an advanced version of Autopilot.

The Waymo van was designed and built by China's Zeekr, the luxury arm of Geely Holding Group. Zeekr will soon begin building these electrified vans for Waymo's autonomous ride-hailing service, called Waymo One, once operations get underway in the US.

Once the San Francisco operations permit has been approved, we could begin seeing those vans making their way stateside in the next few years.

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Source Credits: Reuters

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